How Diwali Transcends Differences in Mumbai

By Piyushi Dhir

Mumbai from the Eyes of a Delhite: Part 9

[This is the ninth in a series of blogs about Mumbai]

As the unexpected October heat began giving way to a more pleasant clime, Diwali descended upon us. Our office was due to be closed for two days- Tuesday and Wednesday. Like any true bred north-Indian would, I assumed we had holidays for Chhoti Diwali and Diwali/Lakshmi Puja, that is to say, I concluded Diwali was on Wednesday.

Maharashtra, however, I discovered just two days short of the festival, has never heard of the concept of ‘Chhoti Diwali’. They give a holiday for Lakshmi Puja and Bhau-Bij, which falls the day after Diwali! The main festival, I realized, fell on Tuesday. Thank God for a fortunate discussion with a colleague, else I would have had a belated celebration all by myself.

As the city started lighting up in preparation, I noticed another new phenomenon: the Kandeel. Undoubtedly inspired by Chinese lamps, these paper lanterns that light up the entire city of Mumbai- from verandas, to main roads to shops and restaurants- are definitely something I haven’t seen in such abundance in Delhi. In vibrant colours and varying sizes, the soft beauty of these lamps had me enchanted enough to hang one at the window above my bed.

Diwali in Mumbai

More than the lantern, what really struck me as unique about this city is the collective spirit with which Mumbai celebrates all festivals- a togetherness that surpasses even religious differences. The day before Diwali saw me pleasantly surprised when my Christian maid wished me a Happy Diwali with a broad smile!  On the day of Diwali, I spruced up my house in the traditional manner, got dressed in new clothes and lit candles upon my window and doorstep. Then remembering the sweet gesture of my Muslim neighbours, who had brought me a bowlful of sewaiyaan on Eid, I offered a basket of dry fruits to them. The lady’s effusive wishes and warm hug touched me as much as her desire to share Eid with me had. The city that had been torn apart by Hindu-Muslim riots many times before, showed the promise of happy coexistence if only left alone by political miscreants.

Closer to 9pm, I drove up to Marine Drive, the beautiful road that runs along the waters of the Arabian Sea, elegantly donning the Queen’s Necklace. Seated along the entire stretch of four kilometres were thousands of Mumbaiyas from all walks of life, watching on while  anars, chakris, rockets, bombs and all assortment of crackers sparkled on the wide pedestrian path. While Mumbai has often been denounced for its lack of space and tightly packed communities, here was one pleasant outcome of this supposed imperfection- a communal celebration of the festival like I had never seen before.

Religion, background and community are all put away, when Mumbai decides to celebrate Diwali. What a beautiful thing to have witnessed first-hand!

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About the Author

Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.